Alex Juarez (left) and his sister, Aniston Juarez, put the finishing touches on the glowing flowers they created Wednesday morning during Camp Invention. Alex created a glowing venus fly trap.

DANVILLE – More than 150 youngsters from Danville’s elementary schools are exploring the principles of flight, designing their own sports facilities and protecting ecosystems this week.

These activities and many more are part of the weeklong Camp Invention, a summer enrichment program that inspires creativity and inventive thinking in children entering first through sixth grade.

Using hands-on activities and online collaboration, Camp Invention promotes science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) learning; builds confidence, leadership, perseverance, resourcefulness and problem-solving skills; and encourages entrepreneurship.

Invention is the purpose of the camp, which is being offered for the seventh year for Danville District 118 students and emphasizes engineering and entrepreneurialism. The theme of this year’s camp is “Elevate.”

Camp Invention usually takes place in person each summer at one of District 118’s elementary schools, but this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the program is taking place virtually at each participant’s home.

“Each camper has been receiving big boxes filled with all the materials needed to participate in the camp’s four modules,” Camp Director Lori Woods, a Danville High School math teacher, said.

“We have eight coaches who have a group of 18-20 kids. They lead a Zoom meeting every morning to touch base with the kids and go over a different module,” she explained.

Patty Juarez, one of the team coaches, was checking in Wednesday morning with two of her campers, seventh-grader Alma Bergan-Guzman and fifth-grader Eva Harper, about their progress on creating a glowing flower using an LED battery as a power source.

“They check in with me, and they can see what each other is working on,” Juarez said as she sat at a laptop computer at her kitchen table. “This is our third invention.”

Alma said she was having a difficult time getting her faux flower to light up, but Eva was able to see what the problem was during the Zoom meeting and offer Alma suggestions.

“We try to work it out,” Juarez said.

Juarez encouraged Alma, telling her that she herself had trouble figuring out how to get the flower to light up.

Eva admitted she didn’t follow the instructions that came with the kit and wired her battery differently to get her flower to light.

“It’s your creation,” Juarez told Alma. “You can do it however you want to as long as you get it to work.”

Juarez said the team members also can reuse supplies from the previous days’ inventions.

Alma said her favorite invention so far this week was making a game controller from clay.

Eva said she loved making a robot from magnets, clay, pipe cleaners and Popsicle sticks. The end result was a robot that cleans up using magnets.

This year’s curriculum also features video challenges from National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees encouraging children to be confident in their ideas and explore their ability to innovate. There also are daily challenges to motivate children to go outdoors, get active and stretch their imaginations.

“They enjoy that everything came in a box,” Juarez said of the multiple boxes filled with fun experiments that were delivered to each camper’s home. “In the boxes, they give directions on how to do a project, but they can also watch step-by-step directions on YouTube.

“The YouTube videos walk them through it,” she said. “It shows them exactly how their project is supposed to look.”

Juarez’s children, 10-year-old Alex and 8-year-old Aniston, also are participating in Camp Invention.

To inspire them for Wednesday’s glowing flower project, the family took a field trip Tuesday afternoon to Vermilion County’s wetland boardwalk.

“We did something to get their imagination going because we were going to work on a nature project today,” Juarez said.

Aniston excitedly talked about the excursion, “We saw some deer in the water, a dead fish, a turtle and a heron.”

The activities offered during the weeklong camp include:

• Camp Invention Flight Lab: Imaginations soar as children learn about flight with gliders, rockets, heliballs and hand-copters. They build a cityscape from upcycled materials, navigate planes through a storm and take apart a robot.

• Design Thinking Project: Campers learn the value of their creativity as they bring their biggest ideas to life. To become successful innovators, they create sketches, build prototypes, design logos and find out how to pitch their invention while protecting their intellectual property.

• Rescue Squad: Using teamwork and problem-solving skills, children protect the Earth’s ecosystems. Inspiring activities include creating pods to compete in zipline races, exploring energy conservation, eliminating pollution and helping wildlife in habitats across the country.

• Camp Invention Champions: As they discover the unseen inventors behind their favorite sports, campers apply their own ingenuity. They trade inventor playing cards, create and play their own high-energy hover-ball games, and design and build the ultimate sports complex.

Camp Invention will wrap up Friday with campers showing off their finished projects to others during a video chat.

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